Dear Governor Hutchinson: Having known you and our gracious state’s first lady Susan for years, you realize I wouldn’t write this unless my heartfelt convictions were firmly behind these words.
I know you, having served in the same 3rd District congressional seat my uncle, the late John Paul Hammerschmidt, held for 26 years, understand better than most the trials of public responsibility and how close the Buffalo River was to his heart and conscience. That’s why he acted in the face of strong local resistance to ensure this precious resource was preserved for generations to come.
His willingness to do what he and some Arkansas colleagues in Congress knew deep inside was the right thing to do resulted in the Buffalo being named our country’s first national river in 1972. How wonderful for our state.
Of his many achievements in the career of public service he so honored and cherished, I believe his efforts to ensure the Buffalo River remained protected were the ones in which he took most pride.
So I write to sincerely ask you, on behalf of myself and untold thousands of concerned Arkansans and others who’ve enjoyed the experience of the magnificent Buffalo National River, to do whatever’s necessary to stop the likely contamination of our precious Buffalo National River from raw hog waste.
Good-ol’-boy arm-twisting politics, self-interested lobbyists and campaign contributors be damned; we ask you to act as the elected governor of Arkansas to ensure this natural treasure is never polluted by what geoscience experts believe is the inevitable contamination from swine waste continuously dumped into the Buffalo watershed through rapid, steady subsurface seepage, as well as into its primary tributaries, including Big Creek.
No lesser authorities than the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as nationally respected former UA geosciences professor John Van Brahana, have conducted studies that strongly agree, indicating such pollution already is affecting the watershed through increased E. coli counts and/or low dissolved oxygen levels.
Warning lights are on. Yet your state agency solely responsible for ensuring our Buffalo is never contaminated, the very one that wrongly allowed this travesty into the karst-laden region more than two years ago, stands by idly, even making hollow excuses why it can do nothing due to “policies.”
Above all words and excuses, Mr. Governor, common sense tells every Arkansan that one cannot continually spray raw feces and urine in amounts larger than are created by the nearby city of Harrison onto overly saturated fields bordering Big Creek without those millions of gallons causing pollution. Water does flow downhill to the Buffalo.
Yes, I realize your predecessor Mike Beebe formed a five-year survey called the Big Creek Research and Extension Team from the UA’s Department of Agriculture. That group not only costs the taxpayers at least $300,000 to perform its responsibilities, but there is widespread skepticism as to its making impartial assessments when it comes to policing C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea and its 6,500 confined swine.
After all, we have state agricultural academics using state funds to investigate the credibility of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality that wrongheadedly permitted this place, with its former director saying she didn’t even realize her agency had done so. Neither did the governor, the Park Service or even Environmental Quality’s local staffers.
Those who embrace the hog factory staying put in this precious and sensitive environmental location claim to support farming and the farmer, as well as the pork-producing industry. I say this type of corporately financed concentrated animal feeding operation obviously diminishes and even eliminates genuine family farms who can’t compete. In this instance, a misplaced factory seriously endangers a $54 million-a-year recreation and tourism gemstone in one of Arkansas’ poorest regions.
Finally, in my appeal to do the right thing and take meaningful action with the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission you appoint, and the seemingly neutered and politicized Department of Environmental Quality, I refer to previous Gov. Mike Beebe’s biggest confessed regret being that he was unaware this factory was being permitted.
Beebe was quoted by a fellow columnist saying: “I wish it was never there. I’ve stopped all future ones…If I had it to do over, it wouldn’t happen.”
Today, Governor Hutchinson, the people of Arkansas are closely watching how you choose to step up to resolve this most significant matter. I’m truly hoping you choose to follow John Paul’s sense of integrity and do the obvious proper and honorable thing by our only national river.
Rather than regret, closing this misplaced factory before it irreparably contaminates our national river could become among your finest achievements in office.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 12, 2016. Used by Permission.